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Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Which mesh router should you buy?

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi
(Image credit: Google)

A Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi comparison is a good place to start if you're looking for one of the best mesh routers around.

Yes, Google isn't just a major force on the internet, it's also a big player in how people get on the internet to begin with. Google introduced one of the earliest mainstream mesh Wi-Fi systems in 2016, offering quick and convenient setup with app-based controls.

The original Google Wifi was one of our favorite mesh routers of 2016, but in 2020 Google offered a new mesh Wi-Fi package under the Nest brand name. The Google Nest Wifi mesh kit knocked it out of the park, improving upon the original in almost every way, including the addition of smart features that we wish more companies would adopt.

But the original Google Wifi didn't disappear. In fact, Google updated it in 2020, giving it a new low price, but retaining the hardware and performance we loved in our original Google Wifi. Both old and new versions are still being sold, but the similarity in hardware means that the only substantial difference is price.

This leaves shoppers wondering which Google-powered mesh Wi-Fi system is better. Comparing the original Google Wifi to the newer Nest Wifi, we've got the lowdown on which of these award-winning mesh networking kits is best for you.

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Specs

Google WifiNest Wifi
Price$99 (single), $149 (3 units)$169 (single), $269 (with 1 access point), $349 (2 access points)
Release date20162020
Wi-Fi spec802.11ac/Dual Band802.11ac/Dual Band
802.11ac TypeAC1200 MU-MIMOAC2200
Number of Antennas/Removable4/No4/No
Ports2x 1Gbps LAN, USB-C for power(Router) 2x 1Gbps LAN, power; (Extension) None
ProcessorQuad-core 710MHzQuad-core 1.4GHz
Memory/Storage512MB/4GB(Router) 1GB/4GB; (Extension) 768MB/512MB
Wi-Fi ChipQualcomm IPQ4019Qualcomm QCS 400
Dimensions4.1 x 4.1 x 2.7 inches(Router) 4.3 x 4.3 x 3.6 inches ; (Extension) 4.0 x 4.0 x 3.4 inches
Color optionsSnowMist, Sand, Snow

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Price and availability

On the Google Store, you can find Google Wifi listed for a very affordable $99 for single units and $149 for a trio of interchangeable units. If you need two or four or five points for your Google Wifi system, you'll need to add them individually.

While the Google Wifi was originally introduced in 2016, Google did re-issue the product in 2020 with very minor changes and a lower starting price. The hardware was largely identical, but the power connector was changed from USB-C to a standard barrel connector, and the Google "G" logo was changed from a simple sticker on the device to a letter moulded into the plastic of the housing.

The older models can still be found on Amazon, selling for different prices than the 2020 version sold directly by Google.

Google Wifi (2016 model)Google Wifi (2020 model)Nest Wifi
Single router$78$99$169
2-packn/an/a$269 (1 router + 1 point)
3-pack$189$149$349 (1 router + 2 points)
Add-on units$78$99$149 (1 point)

The Nest Wifi, on the other hand, is sold as either a single router, or in packs of two or three, bundling a single router with one or two points, respectively. A single router sells for $169 alone, or $269 when bundled with a single Wifi point, or $349 for two points. Individual Wifi points can also be purchased for $149 each.

Google recommends adding no more than five points to a single network, for a total of six units (1 router + 5 points). According to Google "Adding more may be detrimental to Wi-Fi performance."

And here's the best part. If you already own a Google Wifi, and want to upgrade to the newer Nest Wifi, the older Wifi points will still work with the newer Nest hardware, giving you additional expansion units for even more coverage area. The performance may not be as good on the older devices, but it's a simple way to upgrade for less.

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Design

The biggest obvious change from 2016 to now is in the physical design. The original Google Wifi mesh system had a collection of interchangeable units called points, all identical, and capable of connecting with each other to create a seamless mesh network. One point connects to your modem, serving as the central unit, and the rest act as your mesh extensions throughout the house.

With a white plastic body, a cylindrical design and distinctive LED stripe around the center of each Wi-Fi point, the Google Wifi design manages to feel a little dated, even though it was only introduced 5 years ago.

The newer Nest Wifi updates the design of the mesh kit, retaining the cylindrical look, but softening it with rounded corners, removing the stylized LED indicator stripe and adding color options beyond plain white.

But the biggest design change that the nest introduced is a shift away from interchangeable points to a system that uses a central router unit, that is then expanded with mesh points throughout the house. The router and points differ slightly in both look and features.

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Features

The original Google Wifi offered plenty of advanced features for its time, with simple mesh networking and 802.11ac connectivity that was top of the line when the system was introduced.

Each Google Wifi point is equipped with a pair of Ethernet ports, letting you connect your cable modem to the central unit, or attach other devices to the extended mesh network through the various points around the house.

But the real standout feature back in 2016 was the ease of setup. Using the Google Wifi App (since changed to the the Google Home app), you could set up each Google Wifi device simply by scanning a QR code on the base of the unit, with setup taking roughly five minutes per unit as multiple points were used for the mesh network.

When it initially launched, the Google Wifi mesh kit was notable for its early smart home capabilities, which included IFTTT functionality.

When Google introduced Nest Wifi in 2020, it updated this feature set with a number of new functions.

Smart home features were a major focus, as the Nest name might suggest. In addition to app-based network management, Nest Wifi works with the entire Nest family of products, and major names like Philips Hue, Tile trackers, GE, TP-Link, and Kasa. From smart locks to smart lights and plugs, your whole house full of connected devices should be compatible with the Nest Wifi system.

But the biggest feature change to come with Nest Wifi was integrated smart speaker technology, putting a Google Home smart speaker into every expansion point. It's a clever remove on Google's part, offering a simple path to putting smart speaker technology into multiple rooms of a home, and doing so without requiring an extra device alongside a satellite mesh unit. (Check out the best Google Home speakers to see our picks for standalone smart speakers.)

Similar smart speaker technology has been offered on other products – the Netgear Orbi Voice came out a full year before the Nest Wifi and TP-Link announced an Alexa-equipped mesh system during CES 2021 – but only Google has thought to do so in its flagship mesh networking equipment.

In addition to letting you control certain router features with voice commands, it also gives you the option of asking about the weather, playing music, or controlling the various connected devices in your home. You can use the multiple Google Home-equipped Wifi points as an intercom system between rooms, and even play music that follows you from room to room.

The only area where we failed to see the expected advancement was in Wi-Fi standards, with the Nest Wifi still using 802.11 AC instead of the newer Wi-Fi 6.

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Performance

The biggest differences between the Google and Nest versions of Google's mesh system are in performance and range, with the newer Nest Wifi offering faster throughput and larger coverage areas across the board.

The Google Wifi offered maximum throughput of 464.4 Mbps, which is still fairly impressive for an affordable mesh Wi-Fi system. But the Nest Wifi stepped that up substantially, with a top throughput of 653.2Mbps. That even tops some of the Wi-Fi 6 models on our best mesh routers page.

The Nest Wifi also offers better range, translating into larger coverage areas with the same number of units. Where a single Google Wifi unit covered 1,500 square feet, the Nest Wifi router covers 2,200 square feet. Adding a second or third unit only increases expanded range further, as indicated in the chart below.

Google WifiNest Wifi
Single routerUp to 1500 sq ftUp to 2200 sq ft
2-packUp to 3000 sq ftUp to 3800 sq ft
3-packUp to 4500 sq ftUp to 5400 sq ft

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Security

Since the first Google Wifi, Google has built security features into its mesh Wi-Fi products.

The 2016 Google Wifi boasted an Infineon Trusted Platform Module (TPM) that encrypts network traffic and verifies firmware installations to protect the entire network at the router level. You can also pause the internet connection to one or all devices in the home.

But the Google Wifi lacks any built-in malware protections, and doesn't offer any substantial parental controls, like content filtering or deeper access controls.

The Nest Wifi, on the other hand, adds precisely the sort of features that the Google Wifi was missing. It keeps the TPM-based encryption, and  upgrades to WPA 3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access) security – another bit of security that was added to the 2020 version of Google Wifi.

But the Nest Wifi also gets some better parental controls. The ability to pause Wi-Fi access is enhanced with the ability to schedule Internet time-outs or set routines to disconnect the kid's devices for scheduled events like homework or bedtime. Parents can also filter content by site, applying Google SafeSearch to block millions of inappropriate adult websites.

The best part? These parental controls can be accessed right from your smartphone, or through Google Assistant – including the Google Home built into the Nest Wifi points throughout the house.

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Which is best for you?

When you get right down to it, both the Google Wifi and Nest Wifi are highly capable mesh systems, with decent features and reasonable prices. But if you want the best mesh Wi-Fi kit you can get right now, the Nest Wifi is the clear winner.

The Nest Wifi offers a much more comprehensive feature set, including broader smart home compatibility and powerful parental controls. The Nest offers better range and faster performance. And the inclusion of Google Home in every Wifi point is a no-brainer for anyone looking to add a great smart speaker to one or more rooms in the house.

That said, the Google Wifi is still a smart choice for budget shoppers, and while the feature set isn't as rich, the performance is still quite good, especially if range is less of a concern. If you don't care about Google Home, or if you're already an Alexa household, then the lack of smart speaker in the Google Wifi isn't even  making it to your pros/cons list.

The Nest Wifi is the latest and greatest, to be sure, but there's still plenty of reason to get Google Wifi.

Brian Westover
Brian Westover is an Editor at Tom's Guide, covering everything from TVs to the latest PCs. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he wrote for TopTenReviews and PCMag.